Saturday, March 24, 2007

NFL Overreaching On Copyright Violations

It is common practise for big companies (such as sports leagues) to overreach on their copyright rights. This was practise tested with an NFL clip and shown to be the case.

When the NFL airs a game they have a disclaimer:

This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience, and any other use of this telecast or of any pictures, descriptions or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited

This disclaimer makes no exception for fair use as the actual Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) does. A Brooklyn Law School professor named Wendy Seltzer wanted to show this to her students, so she posted a short clip of the Super Bowl on her youtube blog. This falls under the fair use exception since she is using this to teach a lesson about copyright law to her class. Sure enough, an NFL copyright-bot flagged the video as a violation of copyright and sent a message to youtube, so youtube removed the clip.

Professor Seltzer responded and sent a counternotice to youtube citing her rights under the DCMA. Several weeks later, the clip came back online. The NFL sent another copyright infringement notice to youtube who have again removed the clip. Under the DCMA, they did not have the rights to do this and are in violation of the law. The NFL is now liable for any legal fees and damages that are awarded to Prof. Seltzer should this case go to court.

Here is Prof. Seltzer's blog about this situation and here is a news article about the saga.

This is important to all sports fans because it shows how sports leagues are overreaching on their copyright rights and it shows that youtube (and likely many other companies) are so scared of lawsuits that they will comply immediately with illegal notices of copyright infringement and if they ask any questions, it is much later. Cases such as these will set the precedent for fair use of sports clips and could be important should the NHL ever try to get clips of NHL games pulled from blogs due to alleged copyright infringement.

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